The line really should read “Don’t judge me sis,” but the famous line from the last decade was not “Don’t taze me sis,” so there you go.
Men are often very judgmental of female physicians who choose nontraditional paths to manage their professional lives or their work life balance. I honestly think they just don’t understand what it’s like to be a working mother, or maybe they are resentful of the perceived special treatment women get when they take maternity leave.
While my current department is thankfully very supportive of women in medicine, I have in the past worked in less than ideal situations, where maternity leave was unpaid and resented, pumping on a shift was frowned upon (did it anyways), and the women’s group I started was met with a “boys steak and strippers night.”
While some men can be very judgmental, it’s women who are often the harshest critics of other women. Women like me who choose to go part time, whether it’s halftime or three-quarter’s or whatever percentage works for them, are often judged by both men and women in the medical profession to be not committed to the department, not interested in academics, or checked out.
That’s insulting. Not every woman in medicine wants to or can manage working full time and having a family. Some of us are content to take 7 to 10 years to get a promotion instead of the typical 4-5 year path. Some of us are OK publishing an article every once in a while instead of churning them out. But that doesn’t mean that we’re uninterested, checked out, or uncommitted. We’re doing our best to make the life that works for us and our families. I’ve heard comments like, “I want to work like her. Part time, it’s easy street.” Trust me, it’s not “easy” and it’s not a vacation.
Maybe it’s a permanent decision to cut back or maybe it’s a temporary one. Who knows. I honestly don’t know what my work situation will look like 10 years from now. But I do know that I am contributing, slowly but surely, to my department, to academics, and to my residents.
It’s time for the workplace to be open to any number of different working conditions. If you want to be a working mom pursuing a path to department chair, that’s great. Kudos to you for having better organizational skills than me and functioning on less sleep. If you want to be a part-timer with no academic or admin responsibilities, that’s great too.
But for those of us who chose a path somewhere in the middle, give us a break. There’s no set path for people like me. I have very few role models to follow. I have no idea what I’m doing, balancing this doctor-mom thing. I really don’t. The ambiguity and uncertainty can be very unsettling, especially after a lifetime of following a prescribed path (college, MCAT, med school, Step 1/2/3, residency). But I’ll continue making the choices that are right for me and for my family, choosing to have faith that it will work out.
So don’t discount me or write me off. My choices may not be your choices. But that’s okay.